Mount Igueldo and the Combs of the Wind

Visiting San Sebastián, Spain, for the first time as an American studying abroad has been an exhilarating experience so far. I’ve been immersed in the vibrant culture, breathtaking scenery, and rich history of this Basque city. The moment you step off the first bus ride and onto the charming streets of San Sebastián, you’re greeted by a unique blend of old-world European charm and modern vibrancy that immediately captures your senses. The smells were something I’d never experienced before.

As you wander through the cobblestone streets lined with historic architecture, you’re surrounded by the warm embrace of the local community. The aroma of freshly baked pastries and food from cafes and restaurants is on every block. You’re welcomed with genuine smiles and the fast-paced Spanish language. The unfamiliar sounds and syllables of Basque, the region’s native language, are a testament to the city’s distinct identity.

The highlight of my journey so far was the ascent up Mount Igueldo yesterday evening, which is a vantage point that offers a panoramic view of San Sebastián’s stunning landscape. The journey to the mountaintop is an experience in itself — a sketchy but safe cable car ride that shows a unique perspective of the city’s coastal beauty of the Bay of Biscay. With each passing moment, the anticipation builds if today is the day it stops working. When you finally reach the summit, the view leaves you speechless, or in my and my friends’ case, loud and excited.

Once we finished taking our new Instagram pictures on the ledge, we moved on to the rest of the amusement park up on this mountain. The rollercoaster similar to the ride up had a couple of us wondering how long this ride can go before breaking. After you sit down and realize there were no handlebars or straps, it really sinks in. Finally, it starts moving and you suddenly forget all safety precautions and grab your phone out to take in the view. It’s simply breathtaking and we got to see the sun break through the clouds over the Atlantic. 

The ride itself is under a minute but was worth every penny. We next moved on to the bumper cars. The urge to drive bumper cars on top of a mountain with an entire view of San Sebastián was honestly unlike no other. Mixing fun with scenery is indescribable.

From this elevated vantage point, the coastline of San Sebastián is in full view. The crescent-shaped La Concha Beach, popular for its elegance, stretches along the coastline, with its golden sands attracting everyone.

The harsh weather made some ridiculous winds propelling humongous waves toward the island, and the ancient Combs of the Wind. The rhythm of the waves crashing against the wall can be heard, as well as seen. Although the weather wasn’t great when we visited, we saw in full effect the city’s relationship with the sea. To your discretion, you can walk up as close as you want to these holes that shoot up cannons of water. On a normal day, that’s all you’re going to get, but yesterday was special. The power of the wind brought waves crashing over the barrier onto everyone watching. Whether you want to or not, you were getting wet.

The sun appears and we’re straight back into the city. You get on your bike, or walk, and slowly memorize your way through the beautiful coastline into the packed crowds awaiting their delicious food orders.

As the evening progresses, the city transforms. San Sebastián’s reputation as a food haven becomes evident as the smell of pintxos drifts through the air. Locals and visitors alike gather in, where narrow streets are lined with bars and restaurants. Sharing pintxos and sipping on local Txakoli wine, you feel connected to the place.

The beauty of San Sebastián isn’t limited to its physical aspects, but the feeling of being embraced by a community that takes pride in its traditions and welcomes newcomers. The city’s passion for life is infectious, and you’re almost compelled to partake in its celebrations no matter how late they go.

Unfortunately, our time in San Sebastián will come to a close in a couple of weeks, but the memories we’ve made linger on. The experience of studying abroad here in Spain  in this captivating city has broadened my horizons, deepened my appreciation for different cultures, and I will miss it as soon as I get home to Boston. The view from Mount Igueldo serves as a reminder of the heights we’ve reached, both literally and figuratively.